The Town That Forgot How to Breathe

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Overview

Something strange is happening in the seaside town of Bareneed. Mythical creatures that formally existed only in mariner's dreams, are being pulled from the sea. Perfectly preserved corpses of villagers long ago lost at sea are being washed upon the shore. And residents of the town are suddenly suffering from a mysterious illness that is making them forget how to breathe.

Recent divorc? Joseph Blackwood has returned to his hometown in hopes of reconnecting with his estranged ...

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Joseph Blackwood has returned to his hometown of Bareneed to find his estranged daughter; what he doesn't know is that the town is in the grips of a supernatural possession. When ... his young daughter begins having visions and conversing with the dead, he must find some way to save her. With the help of some colorful village residents, Joseph attempts to unravel this paranormal mystery and save his only child. Captivating and beguiling, "The Town That Forgot How to Breathe" is a powerful novel about the importance of faith and human understanding. Read more Show Less

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2005 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0312342225. Brand new wiTH MYLAR COVER; 8vo 8"-9" tall; 480 pages.

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Overview

Something strange is happening in the seaside town of Bareneed. Mythical creatures that formally existed only in mariner's dreams, are being pulled from the sea. Perfectly preserved corpses of villagers long ago lost at sea are being washed upon the shore. And residents of the town are suddenly suffering from a mysterious illness that is making them forget how to breathe.

Recent divorcé Joseph Blackwood has returned to his hometown in hopes of reconnecting with his estranged daughter. But when the young girl begins having visions and conversing with the spirit of a neighbor's deceased child, he knows that his daughter is suffering from some supernatural affliction. Now, with the help of some colorful village residents, Joseph must unravel this paranormal mystery to save his only daughter.

Called the literary love child of Stephen King and Annie Proulx, The Town That Forgot How to Breathe is a page-turning gothic tale and a profound exploration of what it really means to live in the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An eerie and gripping story, the work of an extravagantly haunted imagination.”

—-J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Prize winner and author of the Booker Prize winning Disgrace

“A novel of dazzling ambition and strange, haunting loveliness. Grippingly entertaining and bursting with life, it is an absolute triumph of the storyteller’s art. Many books are hyped as ‘unputdownable.’ This one really is.”

—-Joseph O’Connor, Whitbread finalist and bestselling author of Star of the Sea

“Both a contemporary and a historical novel, The Town That Forgot How to Breathe is a tour de force! It speaks of the sea: of those who are upon it, beside it, beneath it. Kenneth J. Harvey, a writer like no other, is as knowledgeable as he is adventurous. A very exceptional novel, extraordinary in its power.”

—-Alistair MacLeod, author of No Great Mischief

“As if plotted by Hitchcock and graced by Márquez, The Town That Forgot How to Breathe is a beautiful nightmare.”

—-Bill Gaston, author of Giller Prize-nominated Mount Appetite

“The quality of his storytelling and his way with an eerie instant are too good to miss.”

—-The Times (London)

David Maine
Kenneth J. Harvey's language is solid and unspectacular—a wise choice, given the oddness of these events…But ultimately, the book's success or failure rests upon two criteria: the ability to create a believable atmosphere of uncanny incident and the concurrent ability to convince the reader that this incident possesses significance. The novel succeeds at the first, falters at the second. We're effectively transported into a region of otherworldly strangeness and unpredictability, but the denouement is unconvincing.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This American debut for Canadian novelist Harvey (Directions for an Opened Body) is a genre hybrid boasting impressive literary flair. It's a heartwarming romance: fisheries investigator Joseph Blackwood pines for the wife he adores while vacationing with their daughter, and their passion is rekindled in the midst of tragedy. It's a creepy horror story: menacing sea creatures and the eerily unsullied bodies of long-dead seafarers are bobbing to the surface of the waters around the picturesque Newfoundland fishing community of Bareneed, as the villagers are gripped by a mysterious epidemic that causes its victims to forget how to breathe. It's a subtly didactic political allegory: the intrusion of the outside world-and something about too many radio waves in the air-is eroding the companionable insularity of Bareneed's quirky residents, setting off undercurrents of nightmarish, utterly alien violence. And it's a fascinating regional novel: Harvey, a Newfoundlander himself, captures with his haunting voice the earthiness of an insular culture that's as distinct from the rest of Canada as smalltown Southerners are from the rest of America. Comparisons with Stephen King's commercial power and Annie Proulx's literary warmth are apt but glib. Harvey is an author whose storytelling prowess can speak for itself. Agent, Sally Harding. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in the author's native Newfoundland, Harvey's American debut is big in every way. The tiny fishing town of Bareneed is weathering some mysterious occurrences: mythical sea creatures are being netted, the preserved corpses of long-lost villagers are washing up, and a respiratory bug is going around. Fishing officer Joseph Blackwood arrives with his young daughter, too caught up at first in his dissolving marriage to notice anything strange in his ancestral town. Then he starts catching odd fish, and his daughter begins communicating with the ghost of his ethereal neighbor's missing daughter. Mystical, complicated, and always compelling, this is a standout among fall fiction; the combination of horror elements, an isolated community, and powerful prose might make this one a best seller. Highly recommended for all libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Canadian author Harvey's first U.S. publication is a messy disaster novel. Bareneed is a small, pretty Newfoundland fishing town. Its inhabitants are on the cusp of a mysterious sickness. Gusts of anger will come first, then shortness of breath, and then death, unless the patient is hooked up to a respirator, fast. The first Bareneed native we meet is Miss Laracy, an old woman who used to have contact with fairies (or spirits). Don't dismiss her as a dingbat: Spirits have power in this yarn. She greets two new arrivals, Joseph Blackwood and small daughter Robin, summer renters. Joseph, a townie, is the closest we have to a protagonist, but no paragon; this thoroughly decent dad will turn nasty as the sickness reaches him. Their neighbor is Claudia, a potter, whose husband and daughter Jessica disappeared 18 months before. Or did they? Jessica, a drowning victim, is still out and about, a malevolent playmate for Robin. Meanwhile folks have started dying, and amiable old Doc Thompson is being run ragged making house calls. And then there's the sea! It's disgorging bodies from different time periods reaching back to the 18th century, though none of them decomposed. Confused yet? Harvey's lack of focus is his most obvious weakness as he moves between the Blackwoods and Claudia, the hospital, the army personnel now established dockside and a slew of minor characters; his obsession is regurgitation, as fish throw up human heads. To top it all off, a tsunami is approaching. Are the spirits causing it? That's one of those chicken-or-egg conundrums. All we can say for sure is that, obligingly, it will spare the Blackwoods. We never do learn the cause of that strange sickness. Harvey appears tolose interest in his own premise, and no wonder; the secrets of the deep are far more sexy than patients on respirators.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312342227
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth J. Harvey makes his American debut with The Town That Forgot How to Breathe. In Canada, his books have won the Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He lives in Newfoundland.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    Good try but, wow, what a letdown.

    Reading the back cover and first chapter of this book in the store, I was immediately drawn in and excited to continue reading. However, the more I read, the more disappointed I became. This book has moments of genius, but in the end, I was left dissatisfied. Harvey wonderfully creates the aged seaside community of Bareneed and sets up imaginative plots. The problem is that there are too many plots and they don¿t fit together quite right. While surveying a number of themes, he doesn¿t do justice to any. The back of the book promised an eerie, haunting, poetic, and funny story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, the only thing I was kept on the edge of was consciousness, as I often found myself falling asleep while forcing myself through the middle three hundred pages. Good try but, wow, what a letdown.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 26, 2013

    Thumbs up! Good mystery, bizarre and creepy, but not too scary.

    Thumbs up! Good mystery, bizarre and creepy, but not too scary.

    What I liked: The opening character, Miss Laracy, grabbed me. Her colorful dialect pulled me in and I had to read on to get to know her better.

    Story line was very interesting. It had mystery, with a touch of bizarre and creepy (supernatural), but not too scary. Perfect combination.

    Pace was great. One part was so heart-pounding that I feared for what Joseph might do and inside I was yelling, “No, don’t do it!”

    The characters were colorful and really brought life to the fishing village of Bareneed. From the whispy and tragic Claudia to the straight-laced Lieutenant-Commander French, to the plump Dr. Thompson – I really enjoyed the characters.

    What I didn’t like: Nothing really --it was a satisfying read, but....if you forced me to “find” something, I might have two little things.
    1. The dog – not sure what the dog meant to the story unless it was just for bizarre effect.
    2. The ending outcome of the bizarre events/sickness (can’t spoil it for you). Not sure it completely works out in my head.

    Overall: Really enjoyed the book and I’ll be looking to read his other books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted November 23, 2009

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    Posted December 16, 2008

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